RISE UP/GEAR UP

UW Early Engineering Summer Institute

The Early Engineering Institute, an exciting, hands-on engineering and science program on the University of Washington campus, gave 23 middle school students from rural communities across the state an authentic taste of the world of engineering this summer. The program was offered through the UW College of Engineering from July 31 to August 2, 2012 and was sponsored by the RISE UP/GEAR UP Grant, a U.S. Department of Education funded program, which is part of a national effort to help students from low-income families prepare for and succeed in higher education.

Loueta Johnson, the program’s manager, said the program gave students a unique opportunity to come to the University of Washington campus, visit real working engineering labs, participate in fun, hands-on, engineering-related activities, and get a glimpse of life as a college student.

According to Johnson, the attendees had to demonstrate their academic abilities and earn the privilege of being involved. The students were seventh and eighth graders, most of whom will be starting an engineering curriculum called Project Lead the Way in the coming fall quarter at their respective schools.

“They are good, well-focused, and curious students,” Johnson said. “Their curiosity will lead them to success in engineering. So we want to make sure they know about it and prepare them for it. We show students the really cool things you can do as an engineer, and it will encourage them to take the necessary rigorous classes at school.”

The program incorporates theoretical, critical, and analytical thinking, as well as relevant/applied learning to expose these younger students to both the academics required and a variety of career opportunities in the field of engineering.

On the first day of the program, students had the opportunity to visit a lab in the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.

“We did activities at labs where they collected the data, and then organized and did the mathematical calculations on it to interpret the result,” said Deb North, an instructor with the program.

On the second day, the program transitioned into a project that introduced a more hands-on approach. Students were shown the structure of a car from an applied systematical angle, a procedure closely related with mathematical application.

“The foundation here is to help them understand that math is important and learn how to apply it to different areas,” said Dave Neese, another instructor in the program.

An awards banquet was held on the program’s final day, during which students heard speeches from members of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and the College of Engineering.

“This partnership emphasizes the College of Engineering’s mission to increase the diversity of perspectives in the engineering classroom and create opportunities for underrepresented and underserved students to access engineering,” said Dawn Wiggin Esselstrom, associate director at the College of Engineering.

Thanks to UW Daily contributing editor, Ling Ling Zhang.